Whitehill Bordon Eco-town’s proposed rail link
Whitehill Bordon is one of several proposed Eco-towns under development around the country. Transport is a key element of the initiative and Eco-towns will be expected to deliver low carbon transport solutions.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is funding the study into how Whitehill Bordon could potentially be connected to the national rail network. The work is being carried out as part of Hampshire County Council’s Emerging Transport Strategy for Whitehill Bordon which sets out a sustainable strategy to reduce the impact of development, reduce carbon consumption and deliver sustainable growth. The strategy focuses on tackling climate change through the promotion of sustainable modes of travel and reducing the need to travel, particularly by car.
The strategy sets out the expected future travel demands from the Eco-town development. The figures suggest that there would be a requirement to handle an additional 9,000 trips per day into the wider region across all travel modes. With the current levels of public transport provision in the town, such increases would be unsustainable, would go against the principles of Eco-towns, and could create significant traffic impacts on the local and regional roads.
The rail study, which was carried out by consultants Halcrow, considered a range of sustainable transport solutions including heavy rail, tram and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to link Whitehill Bordon to Alton, Liphook, Bentley and Liss to ascertain the most viable and cost effective solution. This work built upon the earlier Rail Pre-Feasibility Study (2010) which undertook an initial assessment of possible rail connections.
The Halcrow work was carried out in accordance with Network Rail’s GRIP (Guide to Railway Investment Projects) investment guidelines and the Department for Transport’s (DfT) appraisal guidance. By using these industry guidelines, we can filter out solutions that would not achieve the required value for money criteria specified by Government for public funding, should funding become available for this project at some stage in the future.
The study showed that the preferred option at this stage is the heavy rail route to Bentley which, once the Eco-town is fully built out, could potentially generate up to 1 million trips per annum with through-services from Whitehill Bordon to London Waterloo. Bentley is currently the penultimate station on the Alton line. This option generates a Benefit to Cost ratio of 2.14, which suggests the scheme would provide ‘High’ value for money according to the evaluation scale used by Government. This option has the least environmental impact of all the options, the best economic and financial case and would be deliverable in engineering and operational terms, subject to availability of funding.
Whilst the capital cost of construction is in the region of £130 million, the total cost (including land purchase, Transport and Works Act, public enquiries, legal costs etc.) is estimated to be in the order of £170 million at this stage. The Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR) of 2.14 is based on this higher total cost figure.
The Bentley route would use much of the formation of the former Bentley to Bordon branch line, closed in 1966. Hence construction costs will be lower than for a new line over virgin territory, although much of the route is now in private hands. The former station site at Bordon is no longer accessible, and in any case was not well positioned for the town, so a new site would need to be chosen, closer to the centre.
If the rail study had concluded that none of the options had demonstrated a sufficiently positive business case we would not have continued to the next stage, GRIP 3.
The rail study is available online. The next stage of the study will be to Network Rail’s GRIP 3 level and will be funded by DCLG. Having ruled out all other options, this work will concentrate on the Whitehill Bordon to Bentley heavy rail route and will examine the following areas in further detail:
- Business Case development and refinement;
- design and costing;
- railway operational impacts;
- environmental appraisal; and
- potentially relevant sources of funding and affordability.
Should the study indicate that the Whitehill Bordon to Bentley option is worthy of even further development, there is currently no funding available.
In respect of delivering a rail service to Whitehill Bordon at some time in the future, there is currently no funding identified. As part of the GRIP 3 study, the consultants will be required to investigate potential funding streams, both public and private, and to consider possible mechanisms for implementing the scheme.